Trapkingkai. x Chris Carswell — “at least I tried (pam)”
Emcee Trapkingkai has a plosive delivery that recalls the guttural spit of RZA — visceral, but commanding. The flow is a brilliant counterpoint to the blue-eyed soul of Chris Carswell, as well as the overall tension of the beat. Through the lens of the tense relationship of Pam and Jim that gave heart to the earliest seasons of “The Office,” Trap and Carswell explore that longing for a romantic ideal. Hearing what seems to be confidence and command in the voices of both vocalists serves to reinforce that, no matter how you project yourself, you are always subject to your insecurities, a comfort to anyone who has ever felt alone.
Otis Junior & Dr. Dundiff — “Need to Know”
It’s hard to place exactly what it is about Otis Junior that sounds so soothing. His baroque singing voice has an affable quality, not just in his pleasing delivery, but in the strength of his message. With constant collaborator Dr. Dundiff, the pair crafts a timeless track. Together, they want you to follow your dreams and embrace your possibilities. It’s not presented as trite, or, for that matter, even easy to satisfy your goals. Instead, they focus on the struggle to keep moving.
Tropical Trash — “Your Place in the Chain”
With “Your Place in the Chain,” the band makes a lot of noise in short order. For a song that clocks in at just around two and a half minutes, the pace is never too brisk or breakneck, a mid-tempo plod that leans heavily into crushing, fuzzed-out guitar and bass. Vocalist Jim Marlowe has an almost Mark Mothersbaugh staccato to his voice, a mechanically-regimented delivery that yields a strange charm. The harbingers of snark, Tropical Trash can turn a phrase, jumping from “scarecrow with the nicotine patch” to “reptiles taped to the glass,” all before landing on “bad news from the past.” Skewering that bad news is their purview, and one that they continue to deliver with panache.
Charles Rivera — “Wood Thrush”
Composer and multi-instrumentalist Charles Rivera has crafted a fluttering series of soft sine sounds that relax the senses. Rivera leans into modular music, a pastiche patchwork of tones that have a strange aural glimmer. The end result is hypnotic and calming, despite distinguishable patterns. Each piano carries its own motif, albeit largely in the same or comparable keys, a busier version of the latter works of Brian Eno.
Zack Stefanski — “System”
There is something sinister and unsettling about “System” from singer songwriter Zack Stefanski’s newest release. Opening with a heavy, sawtoothed synth, Stefanski paints an austere landscape. This serves as a rumination on capitalism, that demand to work that seeps into the pores of your soul. That the track is ominous only further reflects that struggle, the balance between finding happiness and doing what you have to do to survive. This is a chilling track, haunting by virtue of the shared experience of so many in your own inability to break the mold that you may find yourself in.
Gradual Years — “Object I”
You can hear subtle background noise, room sounds and human movement in “Object I,” which brings you into the space with the composer. There is a human element to this piece that is welcoming and pastoral, a peek behind the curtains of someone making music in the spaces and time allowed. This is a calming meditation on that lack of space and time, one shared by many, if not all, that takes solace in knowing that art, like life, will find a way. This is necessary music, contemplative and gentle, the letting go of the ephemera of life, and just living in that moment, marked as much by the soft drone as the delicate piano work.